Mother who repeatedly scalded and abused 5-year-old son faces death penalty

·7-min read
Azlin Arujunah and her husband Ridzuan Mega Abdul Rahman, both 30, had both been sentenced to 27 year's jail in 2020 after being cleared of murder with common intention by the High Court.
The pet cage which Azlin Arujunah and Ridzuan Mega Abdul Rahman allegedly their son in. (PHOTO: Court documents)

SINGAPORE — A couple who committed horrific acts on their five-year-old son who later died, including confining him in a cat cage and burning him with boiling hot water, had their sentences overturned on Tuesday (12 July) after a successful appeal by the prosecution.

Azlin Arujunah and her husband Ridzuan Mega Abdul Rahman, both 30, had both been sentenced to 27 years jail in 2020 after being cleared of murder with common intention by the High Court. They were instead found guilty of causing grievous hurt, endangering the child’s life, and other charges, including ill treating their child and voluntarily causing hurt.

Ridzuan was also sentenced to 24 strokes of the cane while Azlin got an additional 12 months’ jail in lieu of caning. Among other things, the trial judge ruled that for the murder charge to be borne out, "common intention" had to be formed before the offence, but the medical evidence showed only “collective injury”.

But on Tuesday, a five-judge Court of Appeal agreed with prosecutors that Azlin ought to be sentenced for her original charge of murder, according to The Straits Times.

The apex court will hear arguments at a later date on whether she should be jailed for life or sent to the gallows.

Meanwhile, Ridzuan was given life imprisonment. The apex court will decide at a later date whether his 24 strokes of caning should remain.

Victim brutally tortured over 3 months

During the trial in 2019, the High Court heard how the victim was brutally tortured at the hands of his unemployed parents in their one-room rental flat at Toa Payoh over a three-month period in 2016 and later died in hospital.

On one occasion, his palm was burnt with a heated spoon just because he ate milk powder.

And when he collapsed after being scalded in October 2016, his parents took him to hospital more than six hours later because they were afraid of being arrested.

The child died in hospital the next day, due to the burns to three quarters of his total body surface area, at the age of five years and nine months.

The court heard that Azlin and Ridzuan, who relied on financial assistance, lived in the flat with the victim and three of his siblings. Ridzuan would also sell items such as amulets, love potions and old currencies on online marketplace Carousell.

In March 2011, when the victim was one month old, Azlin handed him over to a close friend as she was unable to care for him. The victim grew up to call his foster mother “mama” and he would visit his biological parents and siblings occasionally. The victim returned to his parents’ care in May 2015, when he was four years old.

From July 2016, Azlin and Ridzuan physically abused and psychologically tormented the victim. That month, Ridzuan used a pair of pliers with a pointed tip to pinch the boy’s buttocks and thighs multiple times, causing bruises.

The next month, Azlin found biscuits scattered on the kitchen floor and suspected that the victim had toppled the biscuit tin but he denied it. She hit his torso, back and legs with a broom, leaving marks on his stomach and causing him a limp and a misaligned kneecap. She also pushed his left shoulder, causing him to fall sideways and hit his head against the edge of a pillar and bleed.

Sometime in end August or early September, Azlin told Ridzuan to “deal with” the victim. Ridzuan allegedly heated a metal spoon over the stove before placing it on the victim’s palm and causing burns.

‘Cruel and unrelenting’

Between 15 and 22 October, the victim was scalded with hot water on at least four occasions by either or both his parents. The water came from a dispenser that was analysed to dispense water at between 86.5 deg C and 98.7 deg C, with an average temperature of 92.6 deg C.

“On each occasion, Azlin and/or Ridzuan would fill a cup with hot water from a hot water dispenser placed within the kitchen, just outside the toilet. On each occasion. they splashed several cups of hot water at the deceased cruelly and unrelentingly, and with obvious disregard for his well-being and survival,” said DPP Tan Wen Hsien.

“By doing so, they caused the deceased intense pain and severe injury. No medical attention was rendered to the deceased for the extensive injuries he suffered,” the prosecutor added.

On one of those occasions, Azlin grabbed the victim by his ankle to prevent him from running away and then filled up a glass with hot water from the dispenser and poured it over his right leg three times. She then pulled his hand and poured hot water over it four to five times. The hot water splashed over his left arm and chest area. The victim was left limping and in pain, with skin peeling from his hands, arms, chest and stomach. There were also blisters on his chest, left shoulder and right leg.

On another occasion, Azlin splashed hot water on the victim, who then shouted “Kau gila ke apa?” in Malay, which means “Are you crazy or what?”. This angered Azlin and she threw several cups of hot water at the victim over his face, body, arms and legs.

Ridzuan heard the victim shouting and got angry. He also threw several cups of hot water at the victim’s stomach, face and body. As a result of the scalding, the victim had white patches and peeling skin over his face, chin, stomach and body. Pus oozed from his forehead, back and shoulder.

A few days later, Azlin got angry at the victim because he asked her for things. She chased him around the living room, allegedly throwing nine to 10 cups of hot water at him. Some of the hot water landed on his body.

Victim collapsed on floor

The next day, on 22 October, Azlin wanted to bathe the victim at around noon but he didn’t want to remove his shorts. She woke Ridzuan up and he hit the victim with a broom over his head, hands and legs. Still, the victim refused to take off his shorts.

Ridzuan threw several cups of hot water at the victim’s legs and body as the child shouted “don’t want, don’t want” in Malay. Azlin stood beside Ridzuan and continued to shout at the victim to remove his shorts.

As the victim crouched in the toilet, Ridzuan poured hot water over his back and calf area. The victim then fell forwards onto the bathroom floor and stopped moving.

Azlin and Ridzuan only took the victim to hospital after more than six hours. They registered him at KK Women's and Children's Hospital at about 7.55pm. He was admitted and transferred to the Children’s Intensive Care Unit and the hospital contacted the police at about 8.50pm as his injuries were non-accidental in nature.

Police investigators spoke to Ridzuan over the phone at about 5.40am the next day, on 23 October, and arrested him at his home at about 6.55am, before taking him on the same day to the State Courts, where he was charged with causing grievous hurt to the victim by means of a heated substance.

Among other injuries, victim was diagnosed with major burn injury, dehydration, acute kidney injury, multiple facial cuts and a broken nose. He was pulseless by 8.05am on the same morning and pronounced dead at around 9.10am. A forensic pathologist later certified that the victim died from severe scald injuries, with blunt force trauma to the face and head contributing to his death.

Azlin was arrested two days later on 25 October 2016.

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